If you’re thinking that lion meat will taste like chicken, think again. Wild game has a spirited taste and texture that you won’t find in the supermarket. Big game hunters liken its flavor to wild boar and since African lions are an endangered species, you’ll likely be grilling North American Mountain Lion, also called Cougars or Panthers depending upon where you live.
These members of the big cat family all have one thing in common. They are rugged carnivores that prey on deer and other free-roaming creatures. Their meat reflects that heavy protein infusion and the muscular density of formidable predators. Simply put, lion meat is tough and gamey. If you want to grill lion meat, and enjoy it, you’ll need to do some tenderizing work beforehand.
How to Tenderize Lion Meat
The plan is to grill the lion meat, so take a cut about 1 ½-2 inches thick and tenderize it. Pounding meat makes it tender and more enjoyable to chew. You can use a meat mallet. Just be careful not to overdo it or you’ll be grilling lion burgers. Another option is to use a tenderizing tool with needles for points that pierce the meat. It opens it up considerably without smashing the slab.
Another way to tenderize lion meat is to marinate it. You can use any acidic source, such as lemon juice or vinegar. Just let it soak overnight and you should be fine. Because this method adds flavor and seasoning, some people keep the process simple and just use a favorite salad dressing.
Season the Beast with this Easy Meat Rub
One of the tastiest ways to grill lion meat is by using a semi-spicy rub. Here’s a quick and easy recipe.
- 4 tablespoons of finely ground sea salt
- 2 tablespoons of paprika
- 4 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 4 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper
Apply the rub mix directly to the grilling lion meat. Rubs like this tend to work well if you have a preheated, cast iron skillet on your grill, and sear and cook both sides to your liking. Open flame grilling also works.
If you are going to acid tenderize the lion meat, an effective way to infuse taste is to use barbecue sauce. Yes, BBQ sauce will have the same effect as vinegar or dressing. Take a few bottles of your favorite sauce and pour them into a cooking pot. Don’t be shy about adding in some signature spices or ingredients of your own. Drop in the lion meat cuts and mix together thoroughly. Now cover and let sit overnight. Barbecue lion meat can be a particularly tasty route because you will have the luxury of slow-grilling each portion to perfection.
Grilling Techniques for Lion Meat
Although you’ve done some prep work to tenderize the lion meat, strategic grilling processes can help it along the road to succulence.
How to Grill Lion Meat with Indirect Heat
One approach is to work the indirect heat that your grill throws off. Instead of placing the meat closest to the flame, elevate it to a higher rack. By closing the lid, you can basically turn your grill into a slower cooking oven. As a grill master, you’ll be working by experience, eye and intuition. When it’s close to ready by your standards, give it a quick sear and serve. Check out our blog post on How to Grill with Indirect Heat for more tips and tricks.
How to Use an Offset Smoker to Cook Lion Meat
Using a smoker to prepare lion meat is an excellent strategy for a few reasons. They’re easy to work at low temperatures and can add to the flavor.
There are a few different types of offset smokers — charcoal, electric, wood and gas. Wood gives you an opportunity to experiment with different species and create flavors. Here’s a quick rundown on what you can expect from wood varieties.
- Cherry: Often used with meats that aren’t seasoned. It brings a mild, but sweet flavor and is commonly used with turkey and pork.
- Maple: This is a hardwood infuses a smoky taste and is a favorite with pork and poultry.
- Hickory: Brings a prominent, strong smoky flavor to beef and lamb.
- Oak: This favorite hardwood offers the most versatility for slow cooking and is a go-to for wild game such as lion, boar, etc.
For lion, oak would be a reasonable choice to go with your pre-seasoned cuts.
When starting up your wood smoker, many people like to keep it all natural. Some say that starting with charcoal or lighter fluids taints the process. That being said, it’s a judgment call for you to make. Once the smoker reaches 210-220 degrees, insert the meat and monitor the temperature. Smoking lion meat should be similar to the cooking times of beef or pork. A steak usually takes about 45-60 minutes, depending on thickness. Thicker cuts may take longer, depending on whether you like yours medium to well-done. Aim for an internal temperature of 145 degrees to ensure the cut is thoroughly cooked. This isn’t farm-raised livestock, so err on the side of caution and don’t eat under-cooked wild game.
To purchase Lion Meat and other exotic meats, check out Exotic Meat Market